Fortunately, the only shots taken Friday night at Brainerd High School were on the basketball court.
The Tyner girls and boys teams played the Lady Panthers and Panthers in District 6-AA games. Within the last two weeks, both schools had shooting incidents outside their gymnasiums while boys games against Howard were going on inside.
Even before news of Friday's deadly shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Brainerd officials had strengthened security plans.
Brainerd Principal Uras Agee said 12 or 13 officers were on hand, which is a few more than usual at a game. Everyone coming inside walked through a metal detector. It also was used Tuesday when East Hamilton's teams played at Brainerd, and it will be used for all remaining home games this season.
"Under this new administration we kind of had a new focus and beefed-up security," said Brainerd's director of counseling, Melissa Brassel. "Our first priority is keeping the students, fans and parents safe."
It was Agee's directive.
"I'm from Chicago originally," Agee said. "I saw security measures like this 20 years ago. It's really nothing new. It may be new to Chattanooga."
Brainerd senior Demetrius Wiley and junior Amanda McClendon said they're thankful for the security efforts. They believe those involved in the shootings are gang members, and it's just part of the culture these days.
"People are getting more crazy," Wiley said. "They're going to find an outlet to express themselves. Children get older. Before, when they were younger they had knives. Now they're up to guns. It's not supposed to be like this. But all they do is give me the cards; you just try and play your hand."
As a counter to the outside problems in recent weeks, Agee emphasized that his school has more than 180 honor roll students, 20 to 30 National Honor Society members and about 90 with perfect attendance records. There are organizations and activities, like the Christmas program McClendon said she recently attended and enjoyed, in place to try to influence students in positive ways.
Brassel said administrators at Brainerd have made sure safety plans are in place at all time, not just at rivalry basketball games. They can only hope to never be attacked by an intruder, like what happened Friday at Sandy Hook.
"Probably one of the most sacred places would be a school building, especially an elementary school. That's not right," Agee said.
A moment of silence was observed between games in remembrance of Friday's 28 victims, which included the shooter and his mother.
"Man, that hits hard," Brainerd boys coach Robert High said. "When you're watching your TV and you see the president fighting back tears, that's tough. Society is all messed up. Something has got to be done about gun control. You've got copycats out there. They see it and they want to do it. It's upsetting."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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